On a recent Friday evening, after a long work day, which capped a long work week, I announced to my partner that I didn’t feel like cooking – a rare event in our household – and that we had two choices for dinner: buttered popcorn or takeout.

He opted for the latter. Given that we had not planned and ordered ahead, we figured our chances of securing takeout in these pandemic times were slim. But nothing ventured, nothing gained: Out for our evening walk, we passed by the Knotted Apron, a new-ish restaurant in the Portland neighborhood of Rosemont, knocked on the door, and, lo and behold, were told that dinner was doable. (Preorders are suggested, however.)

The Knotted Apron was just months old when the pandemic hit, barely getting the chance to find its footing or earn the custom of regulars. I hadn’t yet eaten there myself, but given its perch in my own neighborhood, and my heightened concern for the survival of new restaurants, I also felt a personal urgency to help it stay afloat.

The restaurant, open for dinner takeout Thursdays through Saturdays, pins a changing nightly three-course menu to its door – with a choice between two entrees – for $20, a price I’d thought almost impossibly cheap. Were the portions tiny? I’d read the menus every time we passed by on our nightly walks and was impressed by their appeal, offering choices like roasted pork loin with whipped potatoes and asparagus or roasted leg of lamb with gnocchi, fennel and English peas.

Back home, we plated up our meal. From left, haddock roulade, foccacia and cannelloni. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

We opted for one of each of that Friday night’s options: haddock roulade and goat cheese-and-spinach-stuffed cannelloni. Both entrees came with a generous square of olive-rosemary foccacia, a small container of split pea soup and a piece of chocolate cake with a shiny chocolate glaze. Seconds after we ordered, I thought to myself, “Mistake!” Fish can be delicate and doesn’t always withstand the rigors of takeout.

I needn’t have worried. Or about portion size, either. We walked the 10 minutes home with our takeout bag, then plated it up.

The fish, sitting on a bed of cheery yellow Israeli cous cous with sauteed, quartered artichoke hearts, preserved lemon and olives, held up beautifully. It was moist and meaty, and the flavors of the dish were lively and balanced. The cannelloni (in hand-rolled casing!) was delicate and springlike with a pretty scattering of finely-cut chives, and the foccacia poised at the juncture of springiness and seductively oily. The portions were generous, so much so that we stashed the pea soup away for lunch the next day. Like everything else we ate, including that classic chocolate cake, it was excellent.

P.S. Despite the sign on the door, which needed updating apparently, the three-course dinners actually cost $25 each. Worth it.


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